Despite playing amongst the county's elite, Whitstable
were perhaps one of the cinderella clubs - particularly towards
the end of the decade when football attendances were declining
as a result of competition from other emerging entertainments.
This showed in the official programme - a thin production, printed wholly in red ink on flimsy white paper.
Ian Johnson has very kindly scanned and forwarded a selection
of pages from his collection. Thus, we can take a wander down
memory lane and pick out some key features.
That Front Page....
As I recall, the front page rarely changed in the late
1950s and it looked like this....
Even the match details were omitted - presumably to allow
mass production and keep costs to a minimum. As a result, it
could be sold for just 3 old pennies - 1.2 current day pennies.
In fact, this particular programme was for a big match on Easter
Saturday (5 April 1958) against Dover. On Easter Monday, the
Belmont featured another attractive match.... against
Ashford. It's fascinating to spot some of the names on the list of officials...
The President was the well known local dignitary and
historian, Wallace Harvey. It was a good choice. The Hon.
Treasurer was also well qualified for the post. Mr H Henley was
the Housing Manager of the old Whitstable Urban District and, in
the early 1950s, he called at our house every Monday to collect
the rent! The Hon Sec was Les Shinglestone who was associated with the
club for many years and I believe he features in the
1948/49 team photo on our Introduction page (see photo
extract on the right)....
The inside pages of the programme were awash with commercial
adverts and only three pieces of real information were given -
the team sheet, the league tables and some brief "Club
Team sheets always appeared on the centre pages and,each
week, they were
surrounded by the same pre-printed adverts. As you can see, many local
businesses were willing to get behind the club with a bit of
sponsorship. For that Dover
match on 5 April 1958, the page looked like this....
If we take a closer look at the team line ups that day, some
well known names can be spotted.....
The silver-haired captain, Frank Cox, was at left back.....
the well-remembered Paddy Maher was still plying his trade at
left half..... and the tricky Peter Townsend was supplying those
beautifully flighted crosses from the left wing. However, on the
day, it all came to nought! Dover's super web site shows that
Whitstable lost that match 0-2 and that the goals were provided
by two of their top scorers - Fidler and Allum. On the
same day, Whitstable Reserves travelled to the Crabble Ground
and suffered a worse defeat - going down 2-5 to Dover
Apart from the team sheets, other small pieces of information
were hidden away amidst the adverts. In one small corner, we
discover that Dover's 2-0 win wasn't wholly unexpected.....
The league table showed Dover in sixth place and town
floundering third from bottom....
Mind you, there was some good news that day.... and it was
announced amongst the tiny Club Notes. These were also hidden
away amongst the commercials.....
Ron Harris (inside right) had been picked to play for the county amateur
team. This is a reminder that, in the 1950s, there was still a
distinct line drawn between amateurs and professionals. The Kent
League was a mixture of both. The bigger clubs were almost
wholly professional but clubs like Whitstable fielded amateurs
which explains why winning the league was never really an
The Cup Run of 1957/58...
and a Record
When we started out on our Golden Years article, we thought
it might fill a couple of web pages. Then, we started to link
things together and it grew out of control! A good example of
this cropped up when Ian highlighted a story behind two of his
programme extracts from the 1957/58 season.
The first contains the teams for an FA Cup First Qualifying
Round clash at the Belmont against near neighbours Canterbury
City on 21 September 1957.... .
The game ended in a disappointing 2-2 draw.... but worry not.
A few days later, the Reds travelled to the City and won
5-1. The result set up a home clash against the mining community
of Betteshanger in the next round....
Frank Cox's men were victorious again. This time, it was a
more modest 2-0 scoreline but it set up a titanic Belmont battle
against one of the biggest clubs in the county - Gravesend &
Northfleet from the Southern League.
Sadly, Whitstable lost
that big match 0-3. Unlike Ian, I wasn't at that Gravesend game and I can't recall
the reason for missing out. However, I do remember hearing the
roars a quarter of a mile away in Railway Avenue. Reputedly, it
attracted the biggest ever crowd to Belmont (2,500).... but did
In his article "The
Record Attendance: Whitstable v Gravesend - 1957
" Ian describes the events of that memorable day... and
refers to another big attendance for a Kent Amateur Cup match 6
Club Notes & Team
Sheets... The Story '57/58....
The programme's Club Notes may have seemed brief and
lacking in detail back in the 1950s. However, fifty years on, they
tell the story of a season and give clues to an era.
The programme for that 1957 FA Cup match against Canterbury
City announced a new scheme for pensioners....
Club Notes: 'Whitstable v
Canterbury' 21 September 1957
They were allowed into the Belmont for 9d (3.6 new pence). Quite right too. I am not sure what the
amounted to in 1957.... but I seem to recall that my old dad's
basic wage was around £8-10s for his work in the shunting yard
at Faversham. No.... not an hourly rate... a weekly one!
As we have already seen, Whitstable knocked City out of the Cup
that day. The Club Notes for the next round showed
just how much language and terminology has changed in 50
Club Notes: 'Whitstable v
Betteshanger' 5 October 1957
We were urged 'not
to forget' to give 'our boys all the encouragement' we
could.... otherwise it would have completely slipped my mind!
The notes also suggest that hitstable had made a
solid start to the season... and it was all down to the 'age
old' policy of 'keeping a winning side'.
Sadly, that Plan A didn't last long. Within a
couple of months, a few
desperate measures were unveiled for a match with Folkestone - with Paddy Maher switching to the left wing......
By the time Canterbury revisited the Belmont for a League
match on 23 November, desperation had become panic and the 'age old'
Plan B had been being implemented - ie change
Club Notes: 'Whitstable v
Canterbury' 23 November 1957
Manager Len Henson had brought in some new signings,
a young Ray Keam at right half and switched O'Donoghue to inside
By Christmas, we were on to Plan C and Len had
even pencilled himself in at left half for the home match against
It wasn't until mid-February that Plan A was
re-introduced with a semblance of a settled side...
Unfortunately, it all came a bit too late and the
Reds finished the season second from bottom...
Division 1: The Bottom Six - 1957/58
The early of promise of 1957 had melted away
amidst a season of change.
One of the great things about the old Kent League was that
most matches were local derbies and spectators got to know and
understand the opposition. We knew their colours, some of their
players.... and what had happened the last time we met them! There
were also transfers between the clubs.
That team sheet for the league game against Canterbury on 23 November 1957
brings back some memories....
Canterbury fielded an accomplished left half from
Scotland...... one Willie Craig. During the late 1960s, Willie
became player manager at Whitstable and built a team that
lifted the Kent League Cup in 1971. It was the first major
trophy success since the club won the Kent Amateur Cup in
Canterbury's right half was also a well known character - Alex Higgins. At the end of his playing days, Alex became
involved in scouting for City and coaching youngsters. I
remember him coming to our school (Simon Langton) to coach the
- Other Opponents
Another very familiar Kent League name doesn't
appear in any of Ian's programmes... but it is one that my old dad
mentioned on many occasions. It was that of striker, Peter Vandepeer, who had a
distinguished Kent League career with Sittingbourne, Margate and
Faversham. He was also well known to many local youngsters
for his mid-week role..... as PE teacher at Canterbury Technical
High School (now known as the Geoffrey Chaucer School).
I wonder if his pupils actually realised just how
good he was. I certainly didn't fully appreciate my dad's
praise... until I browsed the Margate FC History Web Site. This is
a sample of Vandepeer's goals record....
|42 goals for Sittingbourne
to finish as the league's joint top scorer for the season
||33 goals for Sittingbourne
to finish as the league's second highest scorer
||30 goals for Margate
including 5 hat tricks to finish as the league's
second highest scorer
||46 goals for Margate
in 40 games including 3 hat tricks and a 'four goal' haul
||30 goals for Margate in 26
games including a club record 5 goal tally in an 8-0
hammering of Sheppey in March 1956.
||9 goals for Margate in 8
30 goals for Faversham as player manager
reproduced with kind permission of Jeff Trice at the
Margate FC History Web Site ( http://www.margatefchistory.co.uk
During his 'three and a bit' seasons at Margate,
he inflicted some severe damage on Whitstable - scoring 10 goals
against the Reds. In 1955, he created mayhem in the space of a
single week! On 3 December, he scored four goals at the Belmont to
help Margate to an 8-0 victory. Seven days later, he hit three
more to secure a narrow 3-2 win over Whitstable in the return
fixture at Hartsdown Park.
In 1956, Peter became an even bigger thorn in
Whitstable's side.... by becoming player manager for our arch
rivals, Faversham! He spent three seasons at Faversham and guided
the club to two Kent Amateur Cup trophy successes. For more
information, take a look at http://www.margatefchistory.co.uk/petervandepeer.htm
All this makes me wonder if anyone can add stories or
memories for other memorable players and matches involving
Whitstable..... including the ones mentioned in
Ian's programme extracts above.
I have always felt that the purpose of life is to
learn to disapprove. The older you get, the better you become at
it. So, let me practice my improving 'disapproving' skills by asking a very
direct question.... Who the hell started the modern day
trait of referring to Whitstable Town FC as the 'Oystermen'? I
shudder every time I hear or read it!
I have ploughed through Ian's old programmes and I
have found no reference to the term. I have dredged the deepest
recesses of my memory banks.... and I cannot recall a single
occasion when anyone ever shouted 'Up the Oystermen' from the massed
ranks of the Gas Works End during the 1950s.
In those days, we still had a few real oystermen
on the steps of the Gas Works End (assuming they weren't actually
working)..... and they
didn't call the team 'The Oystermen'. In fact, I very much doubt that
they even called themselves Oystermen! They were fishermen
who probably fished all sorts of things in their time.
The "Oystermen" title appears to have
arrived with the mewses, art & pot shops and out of town
supermarkets. The club was always known as 'The Reds".... and that is the
way that it should stay! Strewth, we'll have some young whippersnapper
DFL renaming the Gas Works End as Crustacean Mews if we are not
With Thanks to Ian....
I would like to extend special thanks to Ian
Johnson for sharing his collection with the readers of Simply